AUGUSTA — The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has told Gouldsboro officials that their draft aquaculture licensing ordinance exceeds the town’s regulatory authority and would not apply to aquaculture operations beyond the intertidal zone.
In an April 21 letter, DMR Deputy Commissioner Meredith Mendelson said the state agency has sole jurisdiction over proposed leases in coastal waters.
In the letter to Gouldsboro Town Manager Eve Wilkinson, Mendelson cited state statute (Title 12, 6072 (1)), that gives the DMR commissioner “exclusive jurisdiction to lease lands in, on and under the coastal waters, including the public lands beneath those waters and portions of the intertidal zone, for scientific research or for aquaculture of marine organisms.” The DMR deputy commissioner noted that Maine municipalities have limited authority in the Maine coast’s intertidal zone. Furthermore, she said state law would supersede any Maine municipality’s aquaculture licensing program and questioned the underlying preliminary draft of a sweeping aquaculture licensing ordinance submitted to Gouldsboro selectmen for their review on April 14.
In her letter, without naming American Aquafarms, Mendelson acknowledged public concern about the scale of proposed aquaculture operations in the area and said the DMR “would be open to beginning a dialogue with the town regarding its existing application and evaluation process for marine aquaculture leases and licenses.”
“We believe our existing process is robust and provides adequate opportunity for municipal engagement, as well as public participation, to ensure appropriate protection of existing uses,” she said.
The DMR deputy commissioner’s letter to Gouldsboro follows her agency’s termination the previous day of American Aquafarms’ two incomplete applications to lease two 60-acre sites off Bald Rock Ledge and Long Porcupine Island in Frenchman Bay. The DMR’s action was preceded by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s April 21 decision to cease definitively its review of the Norwegian-backed company’s license applications to discharge 4.1 billion gallons of diluted wastewater daily from its two proposed 15-pen sites into the 10-mile-long inlet.
In her letter, DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim cited DMR’s termination of American Aquafarms’ lease applications as grounds for her agency’s action.
The Gouldsboro Planning Board is expected to continue its review of the 23-page draft ordinance, drawn up by Rudman Winchell attorney Tim Pease at its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, at the Gouldsboro town office in Prospect Harbor.
In recent days, Planning Board Chairman Ray Jones said board members had only just begun their review of the draft Aquaculture Licensing Ordinance and doubted they would complete their work in time for a requisite public hearing preceding this year’s annual Town Meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15.
In a related move, the Gouldsboro Board of Selectmen is expected to extend the town’s current moratorium on finfish aquaculture development at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at the Prospect Harbor town office.